Engine Of Liberation

What you owe your car (ending the tyranny of the horse is only the beginning of it)

THE AUTOMOBILE IS NOT AN AMERICAN invention. But an industry capable of manufacturing automobiles in vast numbers at prices the common man can afford most certainly is. And it is this invention that changed the world. Read more »

The, Actors’ Revolt

HISTORY’S MOST PHOTOGENIC LABOR dispute lasted thirty days, spread to eight cities, closed thirty-seven plays, and finally won performers some respect

 

1919. The first full year of peace after the World War was a restless one. It saw the advent of Prohibition and the Black Sox scandal. The Communist Labor party of America was founded, while the Socialist party leader Eugene Debs went to jail. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Read more »

American Taxation

HOW A NATION BORN OUT OF A TAX REVOLT has—and especially hasn’t—solved the problems of taxing its citizens

 

JEAN BAPTISTE COEBERT, THE FINANCIAL GENIUS WHO kept Louis XIVs famously expensive government afloat, once said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

 
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Caution: I Brake For History

A BOLD NEW KIND OF COLLEGE COURSE BRINGS the student directly to the past, nonstop, overnight, in squalor and glory, for weeks on end

 

O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself. ” I first read Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , as an Ohio schoolboy. The great democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people have the chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-yearold I already suspected this. Read more »

Covarrubias

He may have been the greatest caricaturist of all time—he has imitators to this day—but his true passion was for a very different discipline

The trouble was, he couldn’t say no to anyone. Badgered by magazine editors, book publishers, theater producers, political agitators, and college presidents to contribute his talents to their interests, Miguel Covarrubias said yes to all, forgetting that there were limits to even his energies. In time his careless acquiescences would prove ruinous, but until then he enjoyed enormous success as anthropologist, author, painter, muralist, stage designer, and—most especially—caricaturist. Read more »

The Key To The Warren Report

Seen in its proper historical context—amid the height of the Cold War—the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination looks much more impressive and its shortcomings much more understandable

In September 1994, after doggedly repeating a white lie for forty-seven years, the Air Force finally admitted the truth about a mysterious 1947 crash in the New Mexico desert. The debris was not a weather balloon after all but wreckage from Project Mogul, a top-secret high-altitude balloon system for detecting the first Soviet nuclear blasts halfway across the globe. Read more »

Shanghaied!

The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in 1865, but right on into this century sailors were routinely drugged, beaten, and kidnapped to man America’s mighty merchant marine

William Davis, a cabinet-maker, left his home near Great Salt Lake in the Utah Territory in the mid-1870s and headed for Northern California, a fast-growing region where he hoped to earn up to six dollars a day by adapting his expertise to ship carpentry. He made the eight-hundred-mile trek with his wife, Isabelle, and three small children, the youngest of whom was just six weeks old. Read more »

The Artistic Triumph Of New York

World War I made the city the financial capital of the world. Then after World War II a very few audacious painters and passionate critics made it the cultural capital as well. Here is how they seized the torch from Europe.

Mark Tansey is a definitively post-modernist painter. His pictures stand at two removes from nature; not art but art history (or art theory) is his subject. Tansey deals in theories and notions, presenting them with the sort of sharp irony found in editorial-page cartoons. At the major Tansey exhibition at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts last year, the most striking and I think best example of the painter’s work on display allegorizes a world historical event in the annals of modern art.Read more »

Home-grown Terror

For a sense of the continuity of the of the terrorist tradition in America, consider this actual sequence of events: The FBI smashes a dead-serious plot to overthrow the federal government and reveals that for more than a year the right-wing militias involved were undergoing army-style training, fired up by inflammatory talk radio. They Planned to use their bombs, rifles, and machine guns to wage guerrilla warfare on American cities, and they claimed friends and allies in government and the military.Read more »

The Lady Brakemen

Consigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Garbage Run,” they fought their own war on the home front, and they helped shape a victory as surely as their brothers and husbands did overseas

All the new lady brakemen on the Pennsylvania Railroad were put to work on what was officially known as the Jersey Coast Extra List. The crew dispatchers referred to it as the Women’s List, and the male brakemen, who had been consigned to it before the women were hired, called it the Garbage Run. It was also known as the meat—as opposed to the gravy, the cushy sit-down jobs on the main line Washington Express, which paid three times as much for about one-tenth the work.Read more »